Based on the more recent entries of the Tomb Raider video game franchise, the film follows Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander), an independent, risk-taking, eccentric girl with a thirst for adventure as she begins to unravel the mystery surrounding the disappearance of her father (Dominic West). As a result, she embarks on a journey on the search for an ancient tomb said to contain an ancient power. She must use her skills and perseverance if she is to prevent the tomb from falling into the wrong hands and solve her father’s disappearance.
I have personal experience with the Tomb Raider series, primarily in the 2013 reboot game of the franchise, and it currently serves as one of my personal favorite video games. With that in mind, it was apparent that a lot of aesthetics and visuals were pulled right out of the game, whether it’s the ship in a storm or running along the wing of a wrecked aircraft. Whatever the case, while it may seem derivative and imitative to many people, I found it to be refreshing to know that “Tomb Raider” felt like an incredibly faithful adaptation of the video games. Much of the scenery and action/adventure elements that make the video game series standout are prevalent throughout the film, and it makes it feel like a video game in a good way.
Much of the action sequences also feel straight out of the video game and, much like in the games, they are exciting to watch and engage in. The film is directed by Norwegian director Roar Uthaug, who previously released 2015’s “The Wave,” a disaster film that centered on family drama and a tsunami. With “The Wave,” Uthaug exemplified his skills as an action director, and “Tomb Raider” further supports that notion. From a bike chase at the beginning to a fist fight in the mud to a shootout with a bow and arrow, Uthaug displays incredibly well-choreographed action sequences that reflect that much more adventurous, grounded nature of the film while also acting faithfully as an adaptation of the video games themselves.
But the aspect that keeps the film together and is the standout elements of the film is Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft. Much like the rebooted video game series, “Tomb Raider” set out to depict a much more grounded and vulnerable Lara Croft than in previous incarnations. Vikander perfectly embodies the athleticism, tenacity, and powerful nature of the character of Lara Croft. At one point Vikander can display a charismatic, adventurous, rebellious spirit and in another point she could display fear and vulnerability that sets her apart from the more stoic, campy iteration brought to life by Angelina Jolie in 2001’s “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.”
However, there are still plenty of flaws and hindrances that keep this from being a “great” video game movie, most notably in its storytelling. For the first 30-45 minutes, I was invested in the more relatable nature of the character of Lara Croft. However, once she reaches the island, things begin to fall apart. The narrative becomes more generic, bland, disjointed, and less investing. It rose back up a couple of time, but never quite gets there. And without spoiling anything, an important story element is introduced a little passed halfway into the film that I thought was really forced and contrived and didn’t need to be present in the story whatsoever.
Walton Goggins tries his best make due with the writing he’s given, and while he gives an admirable performance in the film, his villain is very one-note. They establish that he has a family at one point, but you never empathize with the character of Matias Vogel.
Overall, “Tomb Raider” can certainly be in contention with being the best video game adaptation. However, that is not much of an accomplishment when you compare it to previous video game adaptations. Regardless, “Tomb Raider” is an incredibly enjoyable action/adventure that fans of the franchise will have a lot of fun with, despite its lackluster storytelling and one-dimensional villain. Even though it doesn’t lift the video game curse whatsoever, “Tomb Raider” is definitely a step forward for video game movies as a whole.